tv U.S. Senate Sens. Murphy Reed on Iran War Powers Resolution CSPAN February 13, 2020 6:00am-6:26am EST
soleimani's evil influence removed from the middle east, iran has the chance to chart a new course, to rethink its participation in terrorism and its oppression of its own people. i hope, i hope, madam president, that iran will moderate its activities. but of course, we have to be prepared for the likelihood that it won't. we have to continue to ensure that our words and actions make iran and any other hostile nation think twice before attacking american citizens. and we have to continue to ensure that our military and intelligence community have the resources that they need to identify and to defeat any threat. madam president, i will continue to work to ensure that our military is the best prepared, best equipped fighting force in the world and that our intelligence professionals have the resources that they need to protect our country. madam president, order. mr. murphy: mr. president, it
has been more than a month since president trump brought the united states to the brink of war with iran by ordering the killing of iran's top general, qasem soleimani. no one here mourns soleimani's death. he was a ruthless killer. he has american blood all over his hands. but decisions over whether to attack sovereign nations or whether to send american troops to war, those are not decisions for the executive branch to make. these are decisions that the constitution vests only in the united states congress. and that's why we need to pass on a bipartisan basis the war powers resolution that is currently pending before this body. i want to come to the floor today to raise three issues for
my colleagues, and i'll try to do it briefly surrounding the president's decision to use force against iran, what the implications are for us both as a body and as a nation. first, i just think it's always important when we're talking about this topic to level set. i think it's important for us to realize how much president trump has thrown away. this is a president who is running a master class right now on creating crises that didn't exist before he started flailing away in the china shop, and then this president claims that we all have to get together behind his efforts to clean up the mess that he and his administration largely created. so let's just remember where we were with iran when president trump came into office. when president trump arrived in the oval office, iran had stopped their quest for nuclear weapons capabilities.
they were complying with an intrusive inspections regime to make sure they didn't cheat on that agreement. iranian-backed militias had stopped firing rockets at u.s. personnel in iraq, and in fact those militias were actively working on apu.s.-led project, the eradication of isis. preempt had unified -- president obama unified the world against iran. even russia and china were working side by side with the united states to constrict iran's nuclear program. and with the nuclear agreement secured, this global coalition had essentially been teed up for president trump to be used to make new progress to pressure iran on a next set of concessions, on their ballistic missile program or their support for terrorist proxies across the region. but president trump threw this all away.
and now despite the sanctions that he's imposed unilaterally, iran is more powerful than ever. we went from a construct in which we had the united states, europe, china and russia aligned against iran to a moment today where on many issues it is iran, the european union, china and russia. how much ground have we lost? we've kind of lost sight of iran's provocative actions because since the strike in iraq against our troops, we haven't had front page headlines about what iran is doing. but let's talk about that strike
for a moment because we need to make it clear that contrary to the administration's assertions, the soleimani strike did not deter iran at all. they levied a barrage of rockets at our forces in iraq that were designed to kill. some suggested that night, the next day that maybe their attack was calibrated to sustain minimal damage. now we know that's not the case. in fact, it was calibrated to try to wipe out over 100 american soldiers. they missed. but of course now we're finding out that they actually didn't miss. at first the administration reported no injuries. then it was a few. then it was dozens. now the injury report is over 100. thank god nobody was killed. but let's be clear, iran fired rockets that injured over 100 american soldiers, and we didn't respond at all. now i'm glad that we chose a
path of military deescalation, but nobody in this administration and none of their allies in congress can pretend that we restored deterrence. second, it's important to note that iran is retaliating. they're retaliating all over the region. in iraq, they are stronger than ever before. they have a new prime minister-designate that is incredibly close to iran. they managed to get a vote in parliament, nonbinding admittedly, to kick all american soldiers out of that country. we're still in the middle of a negotiation to try to keep some american military presence there to fight isis. but iran has used this opportunity to get more and more embedded in the iraqi infrastructure, and the protests, the anti-iran protests that were happening in iraq are no longer making headlines because many of those
elements are now lined up against the united states instead of against iran. remember, soleimani was working every single day to try to get american troops out of iraq, and it may be that he gets closer in death to his goal than he did while he was alive. in yemen, iran is fighting back. now it is hard to see into the relationship between the houthis and the iranians, but the houthis are acting out in provocative ways that are fundamentally different today than they were prior to the death of soleimani. they are restricting humanitarian aid. they are launching attacks against civilian sites. we don't know that the houthis are undertaking these actions from orders from iran, but it is likely that it is not coincidental that the houthis'
increase in activity in yemen further destabilizing a country that's really important to the united states is happening at the very moment that iran is looking for ways fo get back at the -- to get back at the united states for the soleimani strike. remember, isis and al qaeda are inside yemen. the wing of al qaeda that has the clearest designs against the united states takes advantage of the chaos inside yemen to recruit and to grow and to expand their territory. and so as the houthis are further destabilizing yemen, the enemies of the united states are potentially getting stronger. iran is once again back on the march inside yemen. and then in lebanon, in lebanon we have this moment, we have this moment in which there were proapts on the street -- protests on the street that were demanding a lebanese government free of corruption and free of iranian influence. we were this close to getting a
technocratic government in lebanon that mielt finally break the grip of iran on elements of lebanese politics. and instead of taking advantage of that moment, the united states decided that it was going to cut off aid to the army that was protecting the protesters. and the combination of that mistake and then the assassination of general soleimani allowed iran to upend the momentum that was running against tehran inside lebanon. and now guess what we have in lebanon. we have a hezbollah government in iran -- in lebanon. and instead of getting a citizen-focused technocratic government, we have an iranian-aligned hezbollah government in lebanon. iran is fighting back. they are escalating. they may not be shooting missiles at american military
bases, but they are gaining ground. they are taking provocative actions throughout the region. and it's really important for us to understand that. it's really for us to understand how we are losing ground in places like iraq and yemen and lebanon, how much stronger iran is getting as a direct consequence of the action that was taken without congressional authorization. and my third and last point is this, even if we pass this war powers resolution, this president is still going to maintain that he has a mack truck sized loophole through which he can run military action overseas without coming to congress. the president's article 2 authority -- and he has it. i'm not denying that the president doesn't have constitutional authority to protect america prior to a congressional authorization. but the president's article 2
authority has morphed over time into a monster, and congress needs to do more than just pass war powers resolutions to contain this godzilla. for years presidents of both parties have stretched executive war-making power too far. i have been on this floor criticizing a democratic president, president obama, who i argued should have come to congress for authorization for sphraiks -- air strikes against libya, should have come to congress and asked for authorization before launching an offensive against isis or waging drone wars in yemen or pakistan. but president trump has taken this abuse to new levels. and the threat of falling into a new war with iran based on whispers of intelligence and without any authorization from congress is a real possibility. we've got to take it seriously in this body. in fact, i listened to an
administration official this week make the case that the president was actually authorized to kill soleimani because the irgc, the military group that he led, was listed by the administration as a terrorist organization. and i know that many of my colleagues have made elements of this argument as well. that is a ridiculous argument that fails on its face. remember, the administration, not congress, designates who's on the terrorist list. and so you cannot argue that the executive level designation of a terrorist group is a declaration of war. it's not even a debatable proposition, but the administration is apparently making it. so what i'm saying is that we need to be looking towards the
reform of the war powers process more broadly. the overreach of multiple administrations proves the need for an enforcement mechanism for congress, and more specifically, definitions around the circumstances in which a president can use force before coming to congress. a new w.p.a. should sunset the existing military authorization force, force us to come back to the table and write new aureses for the -- authorizations for the military engagements that we still need to be in overseas, and it should create templates for new authorizations of military force that include reasonable sunset provisions on the new aumf's and to make sure it doesn't get stretched to cover geographic areas that were never contemplated by the legislators who drafted the
original authorizations. for many folks it feels all foo familiar -- all-too familiar to be down here today having this argument over the president's military escalation with iran. we're talking about manipulated intelligence, ra drumbeat -- a drumbeat of war, we are listening to bulling them. questioning military objectives overseas were somehow hurting the troops. it all brings back these flashbacks of the disasterus path to war. this vote is essential in my mind so that we warn ourselves against going down that path again. so, yes, let's pass this resolution. we can't stop there. congress needs to do our job to reform the war powers system so that this president and future presidents of both parties respect both congress's role and
the deepest responsibility that we all have to the american people when we make a decision to go to war. i yield the floor. mr. reed: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. reed: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i rise today to discuss my concerns with respect to iran and to express my support for the kaine resolution of which i'm a cosponsor. no -- my thoughts remain with the service members who are injured by iran's retaliatory ballistic missle attacks in iraq. the president was indeed wrong to diminish their wounds by referring to them as headaches,
traumatic brain injuries are serious and the president's comments undermines our military personal. unfortunately the president still does not seem to grasp that his words and actions have real consequences. tensions with iran and the potential for miscalculation remain exceptionally high. we are likely in a period of calm before the storm. no serious analyst doubts there will be a future violent iranian reaction. this temporary calm is a result of several factors. first soleimani's death has caused a disruption in the command and control of the irgc quds force. he is not irreplaceable but difficult to replace. second iran's principal objective in iraq is to get them to leave iraq. the killing of soleimani has given iran political leverage it
did not imagine and violence at this time could dissipate that advantage, especially as iraq leadership remains in flux. finally, the tragic downing of the ukrainian has gotten support in iran with renewed criticism of the ayatollah. this would exacerbate opposition. the iranians are likely to continue to act via proxy, for example, iranian-backed shia have new forces. our national security interests related to iran, iraq and our counterisis campaign are on a negative trajectory because of the impulsive decision-making we have seen.
since coming into office, the trump administration has waged a maximum pressure campaign against iran that has included crippling sanctions, the unilaterally withdrawal from the iran-nuclear deal and the killing of soleimani, secretary pompeo and the president stated that the goal of this campaign is to bring iran to the negotiating table but instead had has had an opposite effect, driving iran into a corner that sees little down side to escalating direct conflict with our country. the ripple effect of this so-called pressure campaign has resulted in the disruption of counterterrorism operations in iraq, the direction for iraqi parliament to remove u.s. troops from iraq, the resumption of iran's nuclear program, the growing diplomatic distance of the united states from our traditional allies and partners, and that's not what anyone would call a win. it should be clear to all that these policies are not working.
the administration continues to let events in the region dictate our response rather than proactively and sha tijicly -- strategically shaping them in a way that benefits our united states national security and foreign policy objectives. we should take the opportunity now to step back from the brink of conflict, engage in real diplomacy with iran and rebuild our relationship with iraq. we need diplomatic channels, either directly or through third parties, to avoid miscalculation on either side that could lead to military conflict. such efforts have been made more difficult because of the reduced diplomatic -- the coordinator, the state department has indicated that the ordered departure has affected all operations of mission iraq and has limited the mission's ability to help iraq become a
more resilient independent democratic country and to support counterisis efforts. unfortunately the situation at the u.s. embassy is indicative of our country's structure which has been hallowed out and hampered at every concern. i'm particularly concerned that secretary pompeo has not assumed the traditional role of secretary of state with diplomatic options, but has been the loudest voice in the administration for violence and confrontation. weaponizeing as first step rather than the last is a sure path to diplomatic failure. war with iran is not inevitable, but the risks because of the president's misguided policy has never been higher. as dictated by the constitution, going to war rests with congress and the kaine legislation -- some argued that congress should not debate the issues of
hostilities with iran. they claim that one is not an opponent of the iranian regime. i wholeheartedly disagree. before being sent to war, our troops deserve to know that the objectives are valid and worthy of potential sacrifice. our military men and women deserve to know that they have a clear mission and full backing of not only the congress but also the american people that we represent. the administration not only owes the american people a transparent explanation but also a credible strategy to conclude hostility to ensure an enduring peace. as we have painfully experienced in iraq and afghanistan over much of the last two decades, securing the peace is no easy task. i'm also deeply troubled by the evolving and at times contradictory justifications offered by the administration for the killing of soleimani.
even in a highly classified meeting to senators following the strike on soleimani, the administration failed to provide relevant details. there is simply no justification for refusing to share intelligence with congress that underpins the administration's use for force. determining imminence is both the immediate intent and immediate capabilities. the administration has not provided a sufficient response to the senate on either point. the president has repeatedly demonstrated a willingness not just to bend the facts but to indulge in outright fabrications. this behavior is particularly concerning and unacceptable when it may result in the deployment of troops into harm's way. congress has a responsibility to demand, and if necessary, challenge the basis for assertion that's could be used to take this country to war. we must not repeat the mistakes that led us to war in iraq in
2003. i voted against that conflict in part because i believe it was an unnecessary war of choice and the bush administration had not provided the american people with a sober assessment of the likely course or the nature of the threat. going to war in iraq took our focus off the effort to defeat al qaeda and consolidate gains in afghanistan, it has contributed to our inability to secure that country in the years since. once again we are risking an avoidable conflict in the middle east at the expense of our effort to decrease isis and putting china and russia in line with our national defense strategy. conflict with iran is not a hypothetical proposition given the escalating cycle of violence which has ultimately led to the outbreak of military action between the united states and iran involving the killing of soleimani and iran's retaliatory
ballistic missle strike in iraq. iran has also announced it will no longer comply with the constraints placed on the nuclear program, the jcpoa, likely resulting in a reduction of the breakout timeline for iran to produce enough material for a nuclear weapon. president trump declared repeatedly it will not allow iran to acquire such a weapon. changing course by the administration, the president appears to be creating a situation where in his only option is military action when it comes to preventing iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. however, we have received no assurances that this administration would consult with congress and seek authorization in advance if it believed it needed to take such military action. congress cannot stand idly by as the president kor reasons toward
conflict. it is outlined in the president's own national defense strategy led to the deployment of 220,000 troops in the region last year, disrutted our operations against isis and made america less safe. the administration's ill-conceived approach has not worked and the time has come to try real and sustained diplomacy rather than relying on the power of coercion, i encourage our president to seek a diplomatic solution to the current situation immediately. and withing officer: the senator from texas. mr. cornyn: madam president, debates between the executive branch and congress over the power to conduct war is not a new topic, but i think in many ways this debate has been blown out of proportion. a lot of this has to do with the decision made